Thursday, March 29, 2012

Road to Wisdom

A Chinese Proverb states,
To succeed...consult three old people.”

Recently I read an article, “Insights of the Elderly” by Kevin Delaney,
which greatly impressed me. A few excerpts I share with you.

The quest for the meaning of life has led seekers to mountaintops monasteries and materialism. But a sometimes overlooked source of wisdom is those who have simply lived the longest.

The elderly have survived their share of blunders, triumphs, joys and sorrows; most picked up some life lessons along the way.

So what sort of wisdom arises from the vantage point of having spent 70, 80 or more years on the planet?

For starters, the safe and secure path
does not always lead to the most fulfilling life.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

David Brooks wrote in a series of columns based on the ruminations of older people. They often lament the risks not taken. One man confessed that he had
spent his life as 'a spectator' and wished he been more of an adventurer. Few seniors regretted having taken any risks, even those that had not turned out well. As one man put it, 'Career-wise, it was a rocky road but if diversity is the spice 
of life, then mine resembled hot Indian curry.'

Others did not regret leaving loveless marriages; few recommended marrying young. One man shared a hard lesson learned: 'It took twenty years of my fifty-year-marriageto discover how unwise it was to attempt to remake my wife.'

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

According to Jane Brody (The Times), “Job satisfaction trumped money. The most important thing is to be involved in a profession that you absolutely love, (one aged reader told her) and that you absolutely look forward to going to work every day. A 90-year-old man added that he was happier now than he had ever been is his life; things that were more important to him, are no longer important.”

Further studies reveal that people who enter their later years, the majority of them are actually happier. According to a Gallup study of 340,000 Americans in 2010, many people felt pretty good about themselves around age 18. Then ~ perhaps as life's vicissitudes kicked in around them a bit...their self-worth began a steady decline. Fortunately, satisfaction re-emerged sometimes in their 50's. Consequently, most people in the study reported being happier in their 80's than they had been in their teens. A majority said that they had never returned to the emotional lows of their early 50's.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Andrew J. Oswald, a professor of psychology at Warwick Business School in England stated, “It's a very encouraging fact that we can expect to be happier
in our 80's than we were in our 20's, It's not being driven predominately by 
things that happen in life. It's something very deep and quite human that seems 
to be driving this”

Other studies show that stress does indeed peak in the middle years...but so too does confidence in one's own abilities. Which may be why middle age still ranks as the time of life to which most people over 65 would like to return.

From the wisdom-infused perspective of the elderly, it may one day seem like the golden age. But then, every life passage has its blind spots.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..

As Oscar Wilde once said, 'The old believe everything;
                                           the middle-aged suspect everything;
                                           the young know everything.'

Piet Hein (Danish Inventor) wrote,
The Road to Wisdom?
Well, it's plain and simple to express:
Err and Err, and Err again
but Less, and Less, and Less again.”

Solomon Ibn Gabriol wrote,
The first step in the acquisition of silence;
the second is...listening...the third is memory,
the fourth is practice...the fifth is teaching others.”

(Khmer Proverb)
Embarrassment of stupidity will bring you knowledge.
                      Embarrassment of poverty will bring riches.
                      Knowing yourself as ignorant, will make you wise.
                      Associate with the learned.

Merle Baird-Kerr . . . written February 11, 2012
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